Grow Your Own Turnips

Virginia Zoo and Gunston Hall Turnip the Competition

The Virginia Zoo and Gunston Hall are taking part in a “Sprout Bout” — a turnip-growing competition!. Over the next two months, the cultural institutions will see who can grow the largest turnip and will track their progress here on our website and on our social media channels with #sproutbout. We encourage you to follow along and join by planting your own turnips at home. Read the full press release here. 

Turnips are fast, easy growing, and an underrated vegetable! They often outcompete weeds and their deep roots help loosen and aerate the soil. During the colonial era, turnips were a reliable storage crop that proved tasty well into the winter. Today, Gunston Hall is using turnips to condition the soil of their newly restored riverside garden. Turnips are grown at the Zoo for the animals, as a supplement to their diet or enrichment items. The two horticulture teams think this “Sprout Bout” is a fun way to test their abilities to grow the vegetable in slightly different climates.

Start your own turnips today and compete with us!

To grow turnips:

  1. Lightly cultivate your soil with a hoe or shovel. Turnips will tolerate hard soils, but they thrive in light workable soil.
  2. Create several shallow trenches with a hoe. In a 3 – 4 inches band, you may have 2 to 3 mini-trenches.
  3. Sow seeds directly into the trenches. Try to sow around twenty seeds per foot. If you prefer smaller turnips or turnip greens feel free to sow more seeds. Do not be over if your seeds do not fall perfectly into each trench–imperfect rows give turnips more space between one another.
  4. By hand or with your hoe cover your seeds with loose soil. ¼ or ½” is the perfect depth.
  5. Lightly water in; your turnips should sprout within the next week or so!